I bought a van and need your help!

In the previous months, I decided to leave my life in the Netherlands. I will take a year to travel around Greece, work on this website, and (most importantly) discover myself. A dream come true! However, the architect’s salary in my previous years did not allow me to put aside a lot of money. So to save costs on accommodation, I decided to buy a van.

Why a van?

My goal for the coming year is to explore myself in a new kind of freedom. I am not familiar with being free. I have always studied and worked. Until recently, I did not even allow myself a proper holiday. However, when I got my driver’s license a couple months ago, I decided it was time to be free. I quit my job, and now I’m ready to explore being free.

The initial plan was to buy a small car and go to the places I really want to explore. However, a car means sleeping at hotels. Something too expensive to do full-time.

The first alternative was a tent. But I know myself well enough to say that this plan would have brought me back home within two months. So I thought bigger. A van. A small home on wheels that I can take everywhere with me.

Why I believe vanlife will suit me

Today, I live with my boyfriend in a big (100 m2, 1.000 SF) apartment. Before this, however, I always lived in small places, which actually suited me much better. I have ADHD, meaning cleaning and organizing is not my strong suit. The smaller the space, the less I own, and the easier it is for me to stay organized. 

Besides, I know I can get homesick. Not so much to people or my actual home. Instead, after a couple of weeks abroad, I long for a place that is mine. A quiet place in which I can recharge myself.

Since a van is small and fully my own, I believe this might be the perfect option for my coming year. Besides, I have always loved building my own furniture. So the idea of transforming a van into a home got me super excited.

Searching for a van

After I decided I wanted a van life in Greece, the big search started. The budget was tight, and my knowledge was even more limited. Space-wise, I knew exactly what I wanted. But about engines and car brands, I knew absolutely nothing.

Thanks to the internet, I found some basic things to check. The age, the number of kilometers it had driven, the availability of spare parts, and the state of the tires. Not enough to make a technical decision, but the necessary knowledge to at least seem to be rational.

The search brought me to an interesting new environment. The car dealers for builders and delivery guys. Most vans I saw were complete with sawdust and dust masks. Others used to be owned by famous delivery companies like DHL and came with full branding. All of them, however, were without navigation, non-automatic, and full of bumps. And their sellers were fully confused by my remarks on space and light.

The van I wanted

Strangely, I found a van I loved, full of sawdust and bumps. An Opel Vivaro from 2013. This van is basically a box on wheels and feels quite spacious due to the (lack of) design. I couldn’t stop daydreaming about how I could live in this van, and it even passed the technical checklist I had come up with. 

However, when I took the van for a test drive, things didn’t go so well. I forgot to use the clutch, hit the pavement in every turn, and had to restart the engine continuously. This left me extremely confused. I wanted this car to be a part of my Greek adventure. Nevertheless, I just didn’t want to drive it. 

Time to be brave!

Until three months ago, I had never driven a car alone, but now I manage. So if I can learn how to drive a car, I can learn how to get around in my van as well. So I bought it.

The day I got my van

The scariest day of my life (so far) started by transferring 90% of my Greek preparation budget. I hate the way this works. Paying up-front for something so big and expensive, only to hope I actually take a van home with me at the end of the day. Luckily the car dealership was an honest company. When I got there, my van was waiting for me.

But then I had to take it home.

The dealer was only a 15-minute drive away. For me, however, it took 2 hours to get back. I did countless practice rounds around the store, continuously failing with the clutch and stick. Then, I had to refuel, but I had never done this before. It took me half an hour to figure things out and restart the van. Which I thought broke down, but instead I was trying to start it in the third gear. By the time I left the gas station, there was a huge line of honking cars behind me.

But. I got home! And I actually got quite good at driving by the time I reached.

I need your help!

Buying a van and taking it home is only the beginning of this story. I have to get it to Greece, a 2500-kilometer (1500 mile) journey. Besides, I have to start the conversion from builders-van to home. Quickly. Since I want to leave the first of March. Difficult questions like how I will survive the Greek summer heat, where I will go to the toilet, how I will ventilate, and how I will have electricity, need to be answered immediately. So if you have any tips on a low-budget van conversion, please leave a comment below. All tips are welcome. Needed even.

Currently I started with the walls and ceiling of the van as well as the first frames for the furniture I will build. If you want to stay updated on my journey to and through Greece, leave your email below!

Love,
Anna

Why I fell in love with Greece

I guess most of you know Greece as an ideal holiday destination. The combination of beautiful and unique beaches, crystal-clear blue waters, tasty fresh food, countless ancient ruins, and idyllic…

Why everyone should explore Greece

There are many beautiful places in this world, but I can recommend anyone to explore around Greece for a longer time. As a working nomad, backpacker, or just as a…

I say yes! To a life in Greece

I started this website because I wanted something of my own when I would move to Greece with my boyfriend. A getaway from his country and family, something to allow me to share the experience of living abroad. We had many ideas for businesses in Greece and imagined moving together next year to start a different life. 

However, business in Greece is not easy. With vague rules and regulations, unmet promises, and the siga siga mentality, plans for the future rarely work out as you want them to. While I got more and more excited to leave my life in the Netherlands, the chances of starting over in Greece got smaller and smaller.

My life doesn’t suit me

For me, the idea of a life in Greece is intertwined with the lack of happiness I feel in my current life. I struggle with my ADHD in the career-oriented environment I am in. It is not that I do not like to work. Instead, I love to work hard. But the repetitive aspect of my job here and the artificial landscape of Rotterdam, are two things that do not fit me. I need a more active and free life to feel my best.

During my years as a student, for example, I took time off whenever I wanted to. No one cared if I attended classes or studied at fixed times. I had the freedom to organize my life in a way that suited me. There were weeks I hardly slept and worked 16 hours a day. But there were also weeks when I left everything behind and explored other countries and cities. 

The result? I was happy and graduated with honors. I was great at what I did because I could do it at my own pace. However, no boss will allow me to work that way. Unfortunately, I do not fit into a regular job.

What do I want?

When the business ideas in Greece started to disappear, I didn’t know what to do. It had been the idea of a future abroad that got me through my days behind a desk. Without this idea, I felt lost. How long before I could start figuring out what I want in life? When would I find a lifestyle that suits me? How was I supposed to get rid of this intense feeling of being trapped?

I believe that, with the disappearance of a concrete plan for a future in Greece, I discovered what moving to Greece meant to me. It wasn’t that I was sad to lose the business plans. Instead, I lost the chance to have to opportunity to get away from my desk, connect with nature, and work at a pace that suits me. Greece had been about my need for freedom and an inspiring environment. And for this, I do not need a concrete plan. I need to be brave!

Realizing this, I decided that no matter what opportunities would come or not come, I would leave. Follow my heart and discover what makes me happy. Learn about myself and figure out what is bothering me in my current life. Work hard when I am motivated, and take time off when I need inspiration. 

A plan without a plan. Only based on my own emotions. Irrational and impulsive. And most of all, freaking scary.

Do I have to go alone?

After this decision, came doubt. Although I now thought of Greece as a way to discover my own needs in life, I always imagined going on this journey together with my boyfriend. However, around the time I decided to go to Greece, my boyfriend got a promotion. A new opportunity that got him excited. So excited that even if a business plan in Greece would have appeared, he would have wanted to stay.

Suddenly we wanted two different things in life. I wanted to realize his dream in Greece. He wanted what I had always believed my life to be. A successful career in the Netherlands.

We took some time to discuss and think about what this would mean for us. Was one of us supposed to wait? Was one of us supposed to give up their dream? Or were our dreams even false, influenced by the other person? 

Doubt

I doubted myself a lot during this time. I wanted to be ok with staying here, in this city, doing this job. I blamed my ADHD and told myself I just had to set my feelings aside and keep trying. Be normal, and be with my boyfriend. 

Besides my doubts about wanting to leave the life I have here, I started doubting Greece a lot as well. I mean, before I met the Greek boyfriend, I had never been to the country, nor did I have plans on going. How could it now be my dream to go to Greece? Was I being true to myself?

I tried to imagine myself in Indonesia, Italy, or Argentina. If I wanted to go to one of these countries, at least it would clearly be my own decision. However, no other country attracted me as much as Greece does. Greece fascinates me. Maybe because my happiest adult moments have been in this country, or maybe because the culture is so utterly different from the home I grew up in. I want to understand the Greeks, their relationships, traditions, and beliefs. But I also want to explore the country, the landscape, and the clear blue seas.

I choose life

I decided to quit my job in February. To travel and write in Greece, starting the first of March. My boyfriend will stay here in Rotterdam, and we are not sure how often we will be able to see each other.

I believe it was this website that helped me make this decision. During the past six months, writing about Greece was the one thing I kept enjoying, even when I did not feel good. The idea of being able to write daily, without other occupations, gave me a new sense of happiness in life. I have no clue how long I will stay, where I will go, or how I will support myself. But I do know this experience will make me a better, happier, and kinder person. And that is what is important in life!

What an after-vacation dip can tell you

Many of us don’t like it when our vacations are about to be over. During a holiday, you can enjoy a free life without stress. You can forget about time and surround yourself with the environment that suits you best. But when this time comes to an end, and you start having nightmares about having to go back home, you might be up for more than just an after-vacation dip .

An after-vacation dip is normal

About 60% of people who return from their holidays have trouble getting back to everyday life. Especially on Sunday evening, before work starts again, many of us feel a bit down. And this is not unusual. During our vacations, we are in charge of our own time. We can sleep longer, take an afternoon nap, eat whenever we want to, and most importantly, we are free of stress.

Besides, during a vacation, we relax, meet new people, discover unique places, and often move more than we do during our days behind a desk. All these things increase our endorphins. Endorphin is a hormone that makes us feel happy. However, our level of these endorphins drops when we return to our usual environment and work. As a result, we feel down. The post-holiday blues. It can take up to seven or ten days before we are adjusted again to the lower levels of endorphins!

Try to enjoy your home and friends

Although your hormones naturally make you feel a bit down after returning from vacation, most of us can enjoy when being home. Sleeping in your own bed or binge-watching your favorite series might be things you missed during your holiday. Meeting your friends and sharing your travel experience with them will also help you to get through your post-holiday blues.

However, when you feel unable to enjoy these things, and your dip seems to continue for weeks, you might have to change something in your life. Although feeling a bit low is normal, it should never take too long or influence your everyday life and emotions.

Reflect after your vacation

When you struggle with a severe after-vacation dip, it might be time to reflect on your life. Struggling to get back to normal might show that your normal simply doesn’t suit you anymore.

Maybe you can’t sleep enough following your busy schedule? Or do you miss physical exercise or the connection with nature? Think about what made you feel happy during your vacation and what you miss the most now that you’re back. Slowly try to include parts of these elements in your life.

My return

When I returned from my most recent trip to Greece, I knew I was ready for a change in my life. Until now, I have always been someone with a high value for my own home. My own bed, my living room, my plants, and my bunny. These have always been reasons for me to get back home.

This time, however, when I opened my front door, I only felt strange. My house was too big, the stuff I own meaningless, and the location too crowded and concrete. All I need is the sea and the things that fit in my suitcase, not a whole apartment in the middle of a city!

I feel strange seeing the traffic around, and even stranger being a part of it when I have to rush to work. I feel unable to just hop back into my busy life, which feels so empty today. And with the people here, it seems impossible to connect again.

Mostly, I feel like a stranger. A stranger in my own country and in my own life. Knowing that I once did fit in here, shows me that I have changed, and it is now time for my life to change with me. The only thing that gets me through my days, is writing this blog and planning my next holiday. But this is not enough to keep me happy.

Don’t live to escape

Planning the next holiday is something many people say is helpful to get over the after-holiday blues. And although this might help with the average dip, I don’t believe this always solves the issue. If it feels like you’re living your life, counting down the days till your next escape, you should change something about your life instead. You shouldn’t have to wait to live until you’re out of your real life!

I recently met a 50-year-old woman with a love for Greece as big as mine. Thirty years ago, after a long holiday in Ouranoupolis, she returned feeling like her life in the Netherlands didn’t fit her anymore. She decided she wanted to move to Greece. 

But first, her husband didn’t want to come, then the kids came, and her mother needed care. When she divorced the man that kept her here, she couldn’t take her girls with her, so she stayed. And later, new boyfriends didn’t want to come either.

This woman planned regular holidays in Greece for thirty years and lived only during these short periods. Every time she returned, she felt depressed for months. Today, she still says she will soon move and finally be happy. But what she regrets the most is not moving thirty years ago.

Change is difficult

Talking with this woman showed me two things. One is how important it is to listen to our after-vacation dip. But secondly, she shows me how difficult it is to listen to ourselves, even after years of regret. Humans are creatures of habit and routine. We’re afraid of change, even when we know a transformation is best for us.

This is why girls abused by their fathers tend to choose an abusive partner. Or why people with low self-esteem seek situations in which they can feel less than others. But, it is also the thing that makes us believe we have to work hard, have busy schedules, or stay in a relationship that prevents us from following our dreams. Change is difficult simply because it is unknown to us.

From sleeping more to a career change to moving out of the city or an emigration. They are all difficult changes. However, if you stick to the old out of fear, it is time to be brave and move to the new. Step by step.

Start small

When you feel unhappy with your life, it is easy to say, “I have to change my whole life, but I don’t know where to start.” No one can change their whole life at once, and neither should we try to. Like the Chinese philosopher, Lao-Tze said, “The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.” 

Do you want to exercise more?
Start with doing five squats before you sit down on the toilet.
Live closer to nature?
Buy plants, or leave the city once a month.
Do you want to explore a new culture?
Start reading or cook recipes from the country you love.
A career change?
Invest an hour a week in learning a new skill.

Start small! 

Keep walking

The smaller the step, the easier it is to actually make it. When you feel the positive result of a small change, it will be easier to take the next step and the one after that until you slowly come closer to your bigger goal.

I have been taking small steps for over two years. I work less, sleep more, spend more time with friends, visit the beach more often, and go on holidays more regularly. With each step, I come closer to a life that suits me. But more importantly, I learned to reflect and act according to that continuously. This lesson is more valuable than the actual change or big life goal I set for myself.

Today I say I want to live and work in Greece to be happy. However, this goal is not the one I started with two years ago and might not be the one that results in happiness two years from now. I change through my experiences and with these experiences my goal in life changes. True happiness is not about reaching anything in life. It is about listening to what is inside you and being true to whatever you hear. And an after-vacation dip is the perfect moment to start listening!

Happiness on vacation. Don’t expect perfection

While planning a holiday, we often obsess over finding the perfect destination. The highest mountain, the bluest sea, or the most beautiful sunset is what we all aim for. However, having high hopes and great expectations for the perfect holiday might end in disappointment. Why don’t we find happiness on our vacation? Maybe we should stop planning our holidays as strictly as we are used to.

Unexpected experience

During my recent travels through Peleponnese, I experienced the benefit of traveling without a plan. I did have a list of famous places I wanted to visit and a route that would take me there. In between, however, I wanted to see as much as possible of everything I came across on on the road. The things I did not know existed before I was there. And it was at these places that I felt most grateful.

I planned to visit Epidavros. Epidavros was a small city in ancient Greece and had the most well-preserved theatre. The site is on the list of UNESCO world heritage sites and is a famous tourist attraction. A must-see. And after visiting, I can say it is a truly impressive ancient site in Greece.

Afterward, I found an old sign pointing me in the direction of “The sunken city of Epidavros.” A not-well-known and not at all popular site. However, following the signs, I ended up at a deserted beach, and just off-shore, I found the ruins of an ancient villa, inhabited by fish and sea-urchins. Now, that’s an experience!

Stop planning and chasing

We all live a busy life with full agendas. Work, exercise, kids, and social gatherings. We live according to a schedule, always busy with too many things, rushing from one place to the next. Holidays are scarce, and often we want to get the most out of them.

I believe many people are afraid of not fully utilizing their precious time off or expensive airplane tickets. What if I fly from the USA to Greece and only visit one island? This is why many of us make the mistake of taking a schedule with us on our holidays.

I met someone who had just ten days of vacation in Greece but wanted to see everything during these days. He flew to Athens, visited Peleponnese, and got a plane to Rhodes. Trying to visit many famous sites, he forgot to plan time for his holiday and returned feeling both tired and disappointed. He did not experience Greece, nor did he find happiness. He did not allow himself to do so.

By allowing yourself time to relax and explore whatever you find on your way, a holiday can get way more exciting and rewarding. You don’t need the plan to visit the fanciest places or chase the most Instagram-able pictures. Let go. That’s what a holiday should be. 

Lower your expectations

Going somewhere for a holiday believing this place will be amazing, will probably result in at least a bit of disappointment. Most of the information we find online is edited or based on perfect circumstances. However, chances are small that you will experience this ideal image. Human happiness is often a result of us exceeding our expectations. But when your goal is a flawless holiday, it will be extremely difficult to surpass your predictions. 

Besides the location, I believe we also expect too much of our holiday. Divorce rates, for example, increase significantly after summer vacations. A big part of the year we are ok with the problems we encounter in our everyday life, telling ourselves that things will get better during our holiday. This way, we put so much pressure on our vacation that you can be almost certain of disappointment, and in the worst case, a divorce when returning home.

But when you allow yourself to lower your expectations, true happiness can be found on even the simplest vacation. I see this not only in myself but also in the people around me. Today, I am in the North of Greece, in Xanthi, a location that does not really allow for high expectations, nor does it have great weather at the moment. However, the tourists I see right now in front of me, are dancing on the beach. Celebrating their time together and being free. 

I rarely see tourists as happy in more famous locations in Greece. And I believe that when they made the choice to visit a less-known and less perfect place, they opened themselves up for happiness during their vacation.

Change your purpose

I won’t say that everyone should stop visiting the more popular islands and sites in Greece to have a happy holiday. You can go island hopping or visit the turquoise waters in Elafonisi. You can go to Santorini to watch the perfect sunset. But don’t let these small things be the main purpose of your holiday.

Leave your home and country behind simply to get away from them. I believe the best vacation goal is to get away from your scheduled life and instead just live in the moment. One, you will succeed at this goal almost always. But more importantly, with this goal, you will have countless unexpected experiences and little moments of happiness throughout your vacation.

Tips:

Book a hotel you know nothing about

Don’t check the location or the amenities before going. Instead, set a budget and book whatever pops up first. I did this with 8 out of 10 of the previous hotels I have stayed in, and all of them surprised me in some way. 

When you search for a hotel on a budget, you can try to find the best one, but there will always be something wrong. You read about it and expect it to be good. But if you don’t want to pay more than 25-30 euros a night, I can promise you it will never be good, no matter how much you research.

By just booking the first available hotel, you skip the mental step in which you create expectations. You can say it was cheap and will probably look cheap. If you arrive and find the perfect mattress, great shower, or sea view, the room is exceeding your expectations. Which means happiness.

Be curious

Greece has many famous sites, but even more road signs pointing you towards the least visited touristic locations. Try following one of them and see where it leads you! Often when the attraction itself is not very interesting, you might come across a hidden tavern, idyllic church, or undiscovered beach. 

Food is also a perfect topic for curiosity in Greece. Everyone knows feta, gyros, and mousaka, but there is so much more. Every region in Greece has its own local cheese, for example. And the recipe of mousaka changes throughout Greece. Ask taverns what their seasonal specialty is instead of just ordering from the menu. Try new food and local products.

Enjoy the road

In Greece, it is a shame to just travel from one point to another without enjoying what is in between. Going off the highway and instead choosing the national roads, you will pass by traditional villages, old churches, mountains, and small beaches. You will see real Greece, the things that make this country special. So don’t move around awaiting your next destination. Enjoy the journey, and be open to new experiences and opportunities along the road.

Talk

No one knows better how to enjoy an area than people who have lived there for years. Be open to tips from locals, and not just the hotel owners. Especially in non-touristic places, the Greeks are open to having conversations. Often they have interesting things to say about the region they live in and know the hidden gems around. Follow their advice and experience happiness during your vacation!

From a successful career to an uncertain life

We are all taught that we have to study and work hard in order to make it in life. Having to be richer and more successful than our parents, the bar for us is high. So high, that many of us are under continuous pressure to “make it”. However, with all of us trying to become professionals, we end up looking like amateurs. You will have to be part of the very lucky one percent if you want to feel like you reached your goal of truly being special in this world. For the rest of us, I guess we just have to get the best out of our way there, our life, something many of us forget. At least I did. And this is my story, explaining why I am willing to trade a successful career in architecture for an uncertain life in Greece.

I kept pushing through

I spent the last ten years of my life dedicated to becoming the best architect I could possibly be. Working at top firms in the Netherlands, a 12-hour day at the office was a normal part of my daily schedule. Even the weekends I spent at the job. I truly believed that my professional success was the most essential thing in life. I could not even imagine what I would do if I did not have my career.

But as my years as an architect passed, I became more aware of the fact that I was not really living my life. I was living my work, but not myself. Traveling rarely, never taking a day off, and pushing through if I was sick. I never allowed myself to stop to listen to what it was I needed or wanted. Then, my beloved grandfather died in 2019 and I was unable to permit myself to take a break to grieve. Pushing through the pain of the loss I had felt, I reached my limit. I needed a change in my life.

Dark times followed my success

The start of this change was marked by a difficult time. I had a complete breakdown. Struggling with extreme tiredness, anxiety, and sadness, unable to continue the life I used to live. Even not able to buy bread at the supermarket across the street, it was time for me to stop.

I grieved my grandfather, my career, and mostly myself in the following months. I cried 10 years’ worth of tears and slept the rest of my days. But no matter how down I was during these months, I always felt that what I was going through was a good thing. I never pitied myself, nor did I feel like things would never get better. I needed a reset, and the darkness was just part of the beginning of that

Childhood trauma made me loose myself

In the summer that followed these dark months, I visited Greece for the first time. Meeting my boyfriend’s loving family, living a slow life, and connection with nature, made me reflect on what I had missed out on the decade before. As a young kid, I had always liked to swim and hike, grow vegetables, paint, built furniture, read books, write, and allow myself to get carried away by the creativity that was within my own mind. I used to be chaotic, creative, impulsive, and full of energy. However, for some reason, I ended up being an adult who did not have any of these characteristics.

I lost myself, I had drifted far away from the person I genuinely was and instead lived pretending to be someone else. I can tell you numerous reasons that explain why this happened to me. Including always being the strange kid in school, physical abuse and rape. But these reasons don’t really matter. The important part was that I recognized the parts of myself that I had been missing. I finally knew what to look for.

I am more than my career

It took a while for me to find myself back. I basically had to learn to let go of all the little norms I had taught myself to live by. When you say to yourself that you are not allowed to laugh for over twenty years, it is extremely hard to start giggling straight after you decide you want to. But piece by piece I reconnect with myself. Not only with the little girl I once used to be, but with a completely new adult version of myself as well.

I learned to be me, and love myself for that. I stopped rushing through life but instead learned to enjoy the journey that is my life. However, I was, and unfortunately still am, an architect at a big firm in the Netherlands. I am still expected to pursue a successful career in architecture. I still have to work overtime without getting paid, and I am still bound to a minimum amount of free days a year. The only difference is that today I can say that I don’t want this life any longer. And this made me realize that going from a successful career to an uncertain life in Greece might not be such a bad option for me.

Life in an office doesn’t suit me

The problem with a successful career today is that we are all putting too much pressure on our colleagues. Especially us, over-perfectionistic architects, are way too good at this. We all peer-pressure each other into staying longer, making slightly more beautiful images, and never stop thinking about a design. And even when you do this, it is never enough.

For me, a life like this does simply not work. Being someone who loves doing different things at the same time while being in touch with my body as well as nature, sitting on a chair for hours, looking at the same drawing on the screen in front of me, adjusting every little detail to create perfection, just to do it all over again the next day, simply does not work. I need to be outside, I need to be active. I need to be physically tired at the end of my days and I need to be able to be more out-of-the-box creative.

Uncertainty is better than not being myself

Understanding this part of myself, combined with the loving family that is waiting for me in Greece, made me decide that I will give up my career by the end of this year. Feeling like I will not function in the world of architecture without losing a part of myself, I choose to follow my own needs. What Greece will bring is still quite uncertain. Maybe I can work in tourism, or maybe this travel blog will turn out to go well. I could design holiday homes in Santorini, become an architect in Greece, teach English, or work in a bar or tavern. But since this life of uncertainty is less scary than having to tell myself to stay with my successful career, one more year, I believe the decision to quit is the right one. I am ready for my next adventure!

I say yes! To a life in Greece

I started this website because I wanted something of my own when I would move to Greece with my boyfriend. A getaway from his country and family, something to allow…

What an after-vacation dip can tell you

Many of us don’t like it when our vacations are about to be over. During a holiday, you can enjoy a free life without stress. You can forget about time…

Why I fell in love with Greece

I guess most of you know Greece as an ideal holiday destination. The combination of beautiful and unique beaches, crystal-clear blue waters, tasty fresh food, countless ancient ruins, and idyllic villages make this country one of the top places in the world to spend your summer. Why not love Greece? Well, for me, my love for Greece only grew after the country became more than what it is famous for.

I didn’t know Greece

Before I met my Greek boyfriend, I had never been to Greece and neither had I ever wanted to go to one of its famous islands. In general, I had never been a beach holiday person. I tried it once, long ago in Italy, but I felt bored within just a couple of days. So I decided back then to spend my holidays only on quick city trips.

When my boyfriend and I started planning our first trip to Greece to meet his family, I was afraid. We were going for a month. Stayed at the beach house with my boyfriend’s parents in a small non-touristic area. What was I supposed to do there? I really expected myself wanting to come back within the first week.

The beach house

But then we reached the beach house, and with beach house, I mean a house literally on the beach. Away from everything else. There is almost no cellphone reception or internet. No cars passing by and no people other than the family to share the beach with. But instead of freaking out about the month to come, I immediately recognized this place as a little paradise. Just for us.

During our first weeks there I started learning the greek way of living in summer. Swimming before breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Eating fresh fish straight from the sea and vegetables from the garden. Doing some work around the house in the morning, taking a nap in the afternoon, and meeting friends at night. I learned how to live with nature and family, which I, as a Dutch city girl, never tried before.

My father-in-law taught me how the direction of the wind and the temperature of the land and water determine the state of the sea. My eighty-something-year-old grandma-in-law taught me how burning coffee scares away the mosquitoes. And my mother-in-law taught me to cook with whatever was around the house and my boyfriend taught me how to fish.

I fell in love

Every member of his family and there are many of them in a Greek family, taught me something new. But the main thing I learned was to appreciate slowing down. Never had I felt more relaxed and loved as I did after just a week at my boyfriend’s family. I cried a lot that first trip, tears from real happiness, real connection, or from the diverse and beautiful landscape around me. I found my home with my love for Greece.

For two years now we have been traveling back and forth between Greece and our home in The Netherlands and it is difficult. We both prefer to stop coming back here. We want to live our lives in the country we both love instead of making money in a place we simply don’t connect with. But it is scary to leave the safety of the Netherlands knowing that life in Greece will get hard. It is a big step, that we prepare for every day.

My first real greek

Today, three years ago I was about to have my first greek encounter. It was a rainy Wednesday in the Netherlands, similar to so many other days here, similar to today actually, nothing has changed on that part in these three years, unfortunately.

I spent that Wednesday in the office feeling cold and dirty from the bike ride through the rain that morning, wanting nothing more than a warm shower and some comfortable pyjamas. It is quite funny that the one thing we humans want after a shower in the rain, is to be in a rain shower, how we can explain this to nature? Imagine a plant asking for you to give it water, because it just rained for weeks and now it’s very thirsty. Or a dog asking for a bath because it just swam in a lake. And what would a fish do?

Anyhow,  I had a boring day at work, cycled back home through the rain, had my shower, grabbed my umbrella, and I was off to a tinder date with a greek guy. I kind of assumed him to be more dutch than greek since he told me he had been in the Netherlands for 7 years, he studied here, worked here, he had some Dutch girlfriends before and had a close group of friends around him. He seemed to have settled in the Netherlands and adjusted to my country, but I could not have been more wrong, real greeks exists far beyond Greece.

He entered the bar about 30 minutes late without even a drop of rain on his shoes while I had spend those 30 minutes trying to warm up my feet since my socks had once again been completely sopped. Which surprised him. This is when I started having my doubts about his integration in my rainy country. But once we ordered our beers and started our conversation I forgot all about culture and just enjoyed him being the nice and happy man he was and fortunately still is. Since the rain had started again our first date went on till the bar closed and continued even after that underneath the neighbor’s canopy. I reached home without wet socks for the first time that day.

After this date, many followed. We enjoyed each other’s company and being just together there was no Greek nor Dutch, there was just us. However, the more we started liking each other, the more we became a part of each others lives and with this, the enormous difference in culture became clear. He is a real Greek, I am a real Dutch and together we have to find our way in each others cultures, which is super interesting but also shocking, hilarious and sometimes very difficult.

I started this blog to share the experience of being part of a mixed couple. I want to share how it is to be in close contact with a foreign culture, how it is to become a part of something while you’ll kind of always remain to be an outsider. I want to share the little things that make me love Greece as well as the Greeks, the beauty of the country and its inhabitants. But also the problems I encounter with my boyfriend, his friends and his family simply because we are raised so differently.

I hope you will enjoy this blog! I know I will enjoy writing it!

Love